Power of New Working Moms: Beyonce, Pulitzer Winners, Political Leaders Shine
For all the working moms who have struggled with getting out of the house wearing matching shoes, a new brand of famous working mother is raising the barre on the possibilities of working while parenting.
And they are also shedding light on the need for paid parental leave policies and adequate, affordable child care so that all working mothers can achieve their goals and fulfill their creative and professional ambitions.
As they are doing so in the spotlight, these new moms are offering everyone role models in life balance demonstrating the possibility to keep their professional lives thriving as they raise children.
Beyonce took to the Coachella stage recently as the first African American woman ever to headline there, having bowed out of the slot last year because she was pregnant with twins. The reviews are nothing short of luminous.
“Let’s just cut to the chase: There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Saturday night,” Jon Caraminca wrote in the New York Times.
The mother of three small children, Beyonce also uses her power to be philanthropic and took the opportunity of Coachella to announce “she would donate $100,000 to four HBCUsfor the 2018-2019 academic year through her BeyGOOD initiative.”
She has been an advocate for parental balance since before she became a mother.
“I have so much admiration for women who are mothers, who balance family and work. I see them and I have this word in my head — respect. I also look to learn. I see these women and I think, ‘Yes, it can be balanced, it can all work out, I do believe that it’s possible to have it all — work, a career, babies. It’s all a question of being very organized. That’s what I’m getting my head around,” Beyonce told Cosmopolitan in 2011, the year she announced her first pregnancy, according to Vogue.
Amal Clooney, international attorney, human rights advocate and mother of twins under a year old, graces the May cover of Vogue.
Editor Anna Wintour writes of Amal and husband George, “They pursue their working ambitions, defend the values they believe in (the Clooneys were the first in Hollywood to donate a substantial amount to the fund for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School–shooting activists, encouraging others to quickly follow suit), and, above all, enjoy their adorable twins, Alexander and Ella, who are without doubt a mini-George and mini-Amal.”
Yes, as celebrity working mothers, none of these women likely has struggled to find—or pay for—childcare. Or have they had to negotiate time off from work and hope a job is waiting when they return to work. Still, Beyonce and every celebrity mother, has no more time in any single day than any other working mother on the planet.
Whether as a working mother, you are using your available time to push your projects forward or using your time as a parent to integrate your work with your life, the effort aligns with one of the 9 Leadership Power Tools created by Gloria Feldt, president and co-founder of Take The Lead.
“Use What You’ve Got,” is Power Tool # 3, and Feldt defines it this way: “What you need is almost always there. See it and use it with courage. Because power unused is power useless.”
The power to create opportunity along with motherhood is at work here. More in the realm of the experience of other working mothers who are not superstar celebrities is the reporting team of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at the New York Times.
In accepting the Pulitzer Prize recently for their reporting on the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandals and the emergence of the #MeToo movement, Kantor offered an ode to her toddler daughter in her speech, as well as to the toddler daughter of her journalism reporting partner, Twohey.
“We want our daughters to understand that this work is not about celebrity, or even individual predators, but about our team’s discovery of what now seems like an entire system of silencing women and erasing their experiences,” Kantor said in her speech.
Other super moms are demonstrating that ambition, performance and parenthood are not at odds. Last month Serena Williams returned to play in the Women’s Tennis Association Tour, her first since the birth of daughter.
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth became the first U.S. senator to have a baby while in office. Still, she has no paid maternity leave. But she made history as she brought her 10-day-old daughter to the Senate floor this week to cast a vote.
Her challenges as a working mother are similar to the millions of working mothers in this country.
According to Moneyish, “When female employees leave the workforce for one year or more, they make 7 percent less when they return, and have difficulty getting a promotion compared to an employee who’s currently working there and seeking the same job, PayScale’s new State of the Gender Pay Gap report shows.”
Lydia Frank, vice president at PayScale, said, “Employers should think about paid parental leave regardless of gender, onsite childcare, flexible work arrangements, etc.”
According to research from the National Partnership for Women and Families, “Five U.S. states and the District of Columbia have laws guaranteeing paid family and medical leave. Multiple surveys have found that the majority of small business owners support the creation of family and medical leave insurance programs at the state and federal levels, as these programs make the benefit affordable, reduce business costs, protect small business owners themselves and increase their competitiveness.”
“Women have been getting pregnant and continuing to work to support their families for years and so, for me, it seems very ordinary, but it’s 2018 and it’s about time we started bringing down some barriers in the Senate,” Duckworth, 49, said in an interview on NBC’s “Today,” The Hill reports.
According to Chicago magazine, “Duckworth jumpstarted the conversation about America’s world-lagging accommodations for new mothers, at her workplace and others, by pointing out that she technically can’t take maternity leave from the Senate.”
It’s not much better in Canada, Chicago magazine reports. “In Canada, members of parliament don’t receive parental leave benefits because they don’t pay into the employment insurance system. They’re not allowed to vote while they’re absent. They have to use their sick time, and if they miss more than 21 days, their pay is docked at the rate of $120 a day. In the U.K., members of parliament similarly don’t get parental leave and lose voting rights when absent.”
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is taking a six-week maternity leave, the first ever for a prime minister there.
“I’m looking forward to the day when we won’t have new stories about that because it won’t be nearly as unusual,” she told NBC’s Today Show Cynthia McFadden. “But for now I accept that that’s just the way it is.”
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldonwww.micheleweldon.com